Navy To Remove Vice Admiral in Charge of 7th Fleet After Collisions

Posted: Aug 23, 2017 8:25 AM

The Navy will be relieving the vice admiral in charge of the 7th Fleet after four collisions occurred during the last year, including two during this summer. Two of the collisions--involving the USS Fitzgerald in June and the USS John S. McCain in August--were fatal. Seven sailors died on the Fitzgerald and 10 are missing on the John S. McCain. The Navy's 7th Fleet is based in Japan. 

The Navy confirmed early Wednesday morning that Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin would be relieved of his duties. The Navy cited a lack of confidence in his ability to safely command the fleet.

A two-sentence statement said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, had relieved Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

The move follows four Navy accidents in the Pacific since late January, including two collisions that left sailors dead and missing.

“While each of these four incidents is unique, they cannot be viewed in isolation,” Swift said earlier.

Aucoin was already due to retire in the coming weeks, and his successor, Rear Adm. Phillip Sawyer (who had already been named), will take over immediately. The Navy has promised to do a "deliberate re-set" of the Pacific fleet to concentrate on improving the safety of the ships and their navigation systems, as well as re-training and assessing each ship. 

The captain of the Fitzgerald was also removed from his position following the June collision with a container ship. Other sailors were punished as well. The cause of the McCain collision is still being determined. 

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